In Genesis 49 the patriarch Jacob, sensing his impending death,  gathers his sons to his bedside to bless them. Each son became the progenitor of  the twelve tribes of Israel. Benjamin, as the youngest, receives his father’s  blessing last: “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he shall devour the  prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil” (Genesis  49:27). The warlike nature of the small tribe of Benjamin became well known,  as exhibited in their swordsmen (Judge 20:15-16; 1  Chronicles 8:40, 12:22  Chronicles 14:8, 17:17) and in their ungodly defense of their extreme  wickedness in Gibeah (Judges 19–20).

Benjamin’s blessing has three  parts. Compared to a wolf, his blessing has two time frames, morning and  evening; it has two actions, devouring and dividing; and two outcomes, prey and  spoil. This sets up a type of “before and after” experience for Benjamin and his  offspring.

Scripture shows that at least four great people came from  Benjamin’s tribe, even though it was the smallest of the twelve tribes (1 Samuel 9:21). First,  Ehud, a great warrior who delivered Israel from Moab (Judges 3:12-30). Next,  Saul becomes the first king of Israel (1 Samuel  9:15-27). In later Jewish history, while captives in Persia, God used  Mordechai and Esther to deliver the Jews from death, and they, too, came from  this tribe (Esther  2:5-7). Finally, in the New Testament the apostle Paul affirms he, too, came  from Benjamin. “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I  also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1). He repeats  this affirmation in Philippians 3:4-5.

Yet Benjamin’s tribe had its  dark side. The warlike nature came out not only in defense of his country, but  also in depravity within his country. In Judges 19–21 Benjamin took up an  offence against the other 11 tribes of Israel, and civil war ensued. This period  had the reputation of everyone doing what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). What led to  this was the horrific abuse and death of an unnamed Levite’s concubine (Judges 19:10-28). The  eleven tribes turned against the tribe of Benjamin and nearly annihilated them  because of their refusal to give up the perpetrators (Judges 20:1-21:25).  Eventually the tribes restored Benjamin’s tribe, greatly diminished due to the  war, and the country reunited.

In Jewish culture the day begins at  evening. Here begins the “after” for Benjamin. Benjamin’s prophecy ends in the  evening, the beginning of a new day, in which he will “divide the spoil.” This  has two aspects. First, through the apostle Paul, who testifies, “This is a  faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the  world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy  1:15). In the apostle Paul Benjamin’s tribe had a citizen who served God  mightily, as he says of himself, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my  course, I have kept the faith“ (2 Timothy  4:7).

But his “dividing of the spoil” has its fulfillment yet  future. In Revelation  7:8, during the Tribulation period, 12,000 men from Benjamin, along with  12,000 from each of the other tribes of Israel, will reach a world population  with the gospel “that no man could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and  tongues, standing before the throne and the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with  palm branches in their hands” (Revelation  7:9). The second dividing of the spoil for Benjamin comes in the Millennial  kingdom when he will have a place in the land of Israel, along with a gate that  has his name on it in the city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel  48:32). He, along with the other tribes of Israel will find the ultimate  dividing of the spoils in the New Jerusalem as each gate has their name,  Benjamin included, on each of the twelve gates (Revelation 21:12-13). What a glorious finish! What grace  is this!

Benjamin has great truths to teach. First, God doesn’t see as  men see, for God looks on the heart. God saw a warrior inside of Benjamin.  Outwardly, others saw him as the youngest son and his tribe as the smallest  tribe. But God saw more, a man who would both devour and divide. The second  lesson for us lies in the two Sauls who came from the tribe of Benjamin. King  Saul, the epitome of the sin nature and its war against God, and Saul/Paul whose  nature was changed by God from a murderous Pharisee to the Apostle of grace.  Paul is the example of what He does for those who come to Christ in faith.